Apr 17, 2011

Menu Plan: Almost Easter including Egg Directions

Easter is falling one day short of the latest possible date, and yet it's still chilly, windy, rainy, whatever. Easter is at our house this year and I'm praying for at least a sunny afternoon for our egg hunt.
Meanwhile, in our year-long study of the travels of Marco Polo, our hero has finally reached Cathay. To celebrate, we'll be serving up some Asian inspiration.

Mongolian Beef
over Cellophane Noodles with Stir-fried Snow Peas

Leftovers from Father R's Homemade Lasagne
He starts with the recipe on the No-Boil noodle box using Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce (comes in a can, cheaper and every bit as good as the expensive jarred stuff), mozzarella, riccota, and parmesan. Then, instead of boring ol' ground beef, he kicks it up a notch by cooking up sweet Italian sausage links, slicing them and using them between the layers of other ingredients. After each group of layers, he sprinkles his own combo of Italian seasonings. Bakes it in our Pampered Chef stone 9x13 dish uncovered for about 45 minutes. When done he lets it rest for another 15 minutes to set up.
Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.

Wednesday: Cook While the Cook's Away
Baked Slow Cooker Chicken
Roasted New Potatoes in the Slow Cooker
Microwaved Asparagus

For the potatoes, partly pare 2 lbs new potatoes and place in slow cooker with a 1/2 cup of water. Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until done. Pour off water. Stir together 1/4 cup melted butter, 2 T. chopped fresh parsley, 1. T chopped dill (or 1/2 t. dry), and juice of one lemon, about 3-4 T. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the potatoes and toss. Serve warm.

Maundy Thursday
A Soup and Salad Supper at church--something new!

Good Friday: Vegetarian Night. Another Middle East meal. (I know Jesus had lamb at that Supper. But something like this could have been served when Passover was over, right?)
Moroccan-Style Stuffed Acorn Squash
Cucumber and Yogurt Salad

Saturday: Light and Simple before a Big Day
Linguine with Seafood and Sundried Tomatoes
Spinach Salad

Easter Sunday Pot-Luck Buffet
The guests all pitch in so who knows? There will at least be lots of hard-boiled eggs cuz the adults all love 'em and cuz of the egg hunt (outside , PLEEZ!)
There are instructions at the end of the post for perfect hard-boiled eggs.
We'll provide the Spiral-sliced Ham. It would have been Grilled Leg of Lamb, but the economy has put the pinch on. We'll also put out an appetizer, bread, and probably a dessert. I'm thinking of making the Lamb Cake with the old 2-piece Wilton cake pan I grew up with. It's a big challenge to make everything come out of the pans whole. THEN, you have to stick the pieces together with icing and skewers, decorate it and get it to remain sitting up! If I succeed , I'll be a hero to Mei Wei who is a huge fan of the Cooking Channel show, "Cake Boss."
One of these years, I'm going to dare to break with family tradition, and do a Brunch menu starring quiches! And Mimosas. Aaah.

And now the egg tips. Considering I absolutely hate hard-boiled eggs, I know an awful lot about cooking them. That's because I married into an egg-loving family. But that doesn't mean I sleep with Father after he gorges on them. Sorry for that image.
                                   Here's a recipe for Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
These directions are similar to the ones in Joy of Cooking which I've used for 30 years. (Gosh, that makes me sound like a Grandma!)
A couple of tips for no-fail eggs:
1) You want them to peel easily and prettily. Use OLD eggs near to the Best-Used-By date.
2)You want YELLOW centers, without that Dr. Seuss greenish edge. Cook in a stainless pot.
3)You want the yolks to be centered. Turn them gently every few minutes. One lady commented to secure the carton of raw eggs with rubber bands and place sideways in the frig over night. Sounds like an Urban Legend, but I might try it.
4) You want the shells intact. I DO NOT recommend the recipe's cooling instructions; I think the eggs will crack if subjected to a blast of cold water. Mom always took the whole pot to the sink and started running cold water over them WHILE THEY WERE STILL IN THE HOT WATER. They would slowly cool. Keep running the water until the eggs themselves feel cool. If you want to conserve water, then just make a few water changes.
5) You want your eggs to fit in those stupid cardboard Easter Egg decorating  stands. Buy small eggs. 

This reminds me I didn't purchase eggs two weeks ago. Hope they peel :-(. 
Have a blessed Easter!
What are your traditions?

Apr 16, 2011

Curriculum Fair Crazy

I just got back from charging through the Maryland Curriculum Fair. I'm wet from the storms, buzzed from the adrenaline rush and pumped for next year. This is what I grabbed for my 10yo Almost-FIFTH-Grader!!:

For Science, we'll be using Exploring Creation with Zoology: Land Animals in the Sixth Day by Apologia (apple-o-GEE-a, I'm corrected). Mei will be glad that I also purchased the Notebooking Journal .  I was entitled to a free DVD by Sherri Seligson from the Apologia Live seminar (which I MISSED because I didn't KNOW that it had just been in BALTIMORE! I'm on the mailing list now!)
For Spelling, I'm either going to switch from, or enhance, Spelling Wisdom (which we've been using this past year) with Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout of Design-a-Study.  I've been a little concerned that Spelling Wisdom might be a bit scattershot in its approach though I really appreciate the dictation of great quotes and passages from literature that it uses, a true Charlotte Mason text. (OOh, I used that dreaded 4-letter word.)
Natural Speller is also CM, but gets down to the task of using phonetic, or other type, groups of lists.  The beauty is I CHOOSE THE WORD LISTS!  I could even choose lists that contain some of the words in the Spelling Wisdom quote of the week. I'll have to play with that.

Another Holling C. Holling book, Minn of the Mississippi , is on Ambleside Online's Year 4 list. Got this copy like new for a discount at a used curriculum dealer. I see lots of notebooking and lapbooking in our future with this one.

I stumbled upon a charming looking Home Economics course for young girls (or boys that are secure in their Y-chromosome) called Lessons in Responsibility Level 3, also listed as Home Economics for Home Schoolers (age 10+) from the Pearables character curriculum writers. Nobody thinks of this! I'm already toying with inviting other cute kids to join us as a coop. In 30 weeks, it covers Nutrition, Cooking, Baking, Ironing, Sewing, CLEANING, Organizing, and Hospitality. There's stuff in  here I don't even know!

And for the horse-lover, I scored a used, hard-back edition of Marguerite Henry's Album of Horses. It won't matter if the pages are a little dog-eared; they'd end up that way in Mei's hands shortly.

Finally a toy: this Carson Microbrite 20X-40X Zoom LED Lighted Pocket Microscope to take on nature walks. Always wanted something like this. Found it at the Rainbow Resource Company's table (a must-stop-by site). If it's only passable, it didn't set me back.

I ran into a friend who is selling her Latin for Children, Primer A Teacher's Guide and DVD, so I'll be ordering the Student Workbook soon. Only wish I had thought of it while I was there.

Lots to look forward to! My brain is humming. Listen!

Had any fun at curriculum fairs this year?

Know Your Flowering Trees!!

This is the view I wake up to for the next precious few days: a cloud of Bradford Pear blooms and the particular scent they carry. Now Father R doesn't share my enthusiasm for them. He says it smells like "dead fish." ("Then it's followed by a lilac-y smell, but first it's dead fish! I lived here for three years before I figured out that I was smelling those trees!") I admit it isn't exactly honeysuckle, but dead fish?

Oh, well.

The point here is not scent-bashing , but a quick flowering tree ID session. There are so many out there in our Mid-Atlantic area right now, all blooming their big, fluffy heads off and all hoping it doesn't either: a) freeze; b) storm; or c) blow a gale force wind. At this moment they're getting C.

See the Jefferson Memorial in the background?

Always ask someone with a good camera around their neck to take your picture.

Then there's also the  National Cherry Blossom Festival which is winding down, but living a few miles north means our trees are just peaking. The pleasure Mei Wei and I enjoyed on a record-setting day a week ago in DC is now extended to our own garden.

So it seems fitting that we start with...

The Yoshino or Flowering Cherry
Look for smoothish bark with horizontal cracks, a bright green leaf that doesn't come out  until the flowers are passing peak, and pale pink flowers with 5 simple heart-shaped petals. The Japanese cherish them as a symbol of the beauty, but also fragility of life. The Festival this year, a bare few weeks  after the earthquake, was especially poignant.

The Weeping Cherry
This one's easy. Beautiful, drooping branches loaded with medium pink blossoms. Like a pink waterfall in the garden.

Doubled pink blossoms of Weeping Cherry

The Bradford Pear.

Probably confused with the Yoshino Cherry because it blooms at the same time. However, notice the flowers are white with a slight greenish cast, and the general shape of the tree is upright. The Yoshino has a spreading habit like a small oak. 

The Bradford was the tree of choice for lining modern suburban neighborhoods until its ugly habit of losing huge limbs--even splitting in half--from storms made it more eye-sore than eye-catching. That's what happens when science (in this case hybridization) tries to play God. The branches simply can't support themselves. If you're going to plant one, plan to prune it regularly.

The Redbud Tree

Not as nice as mine, the neighbor's seems to be dying.
Still in bud.
 Also called the Judas Tree, its small reddish- purple flowers seem to creep up and down branches like blood oozing from its pores. Blooming during the Lenten season, it's easy to see how it was named. Despite the creepy description, it's really a lovely and unusual tree, particularly its growth habit: long, thin, many-twigged branches twisting about in sinuous movement. In my photo, the tree has not quite bloomed as they come in a bit after the Yosihino.

The Kwanzan Cherry
Not my pic, but when mine blooms, I'm gonna take one just like it!

This was my childhood favorite, planted by my mother next to a stream, that my girlfriends and I climbed all season. You could imagine a lot of lovely things inside a pink cloud. When the breeze blew, down would come pink rain. It could also conjure petals thrown at Cinderella weddings held just for us.
Sadly, cherry life-expectancies are comparatively short and on my last visit home, I discovered only the trace of a stump from my old friend.

The Kwanzan blooms after the Yoshino, so having both in the garden will extend the flowering tree joy. Its double blooms are gi-hu-normous for a flowering tree, like small carnations. The color is medium pink. It's not as graceful what with all those big blossoms but it sure stands out. You can't not notice it.

The Flowering Plum
Notice the Yoshino behind it. See the difference?

This one can easily be confused with the Yoshino Cherry. They're blooming at the same time, the shape is similar and the blossom is almost that same pale pink. Almost, but a little pinker. And smaller. AND the leaves are coming out and are PLUM colored. So look for leaves!

The Flowering Crabapple

This one mimics the Flowering Plum in foliage color, but the hint is that it comes out later, not at the same time as the cherries. In addition, the blossoms are large, and very pink. We had a lot of fun in this one as kids too! After the pink snow season, you could throw the crabs at boys.

This should help you figure out what you're passing when you drive through town. It's not exhaustive; there are still apple trees, and (edible) cherry trees, and others I might just be forgetting, but the ones here are the ones you're likely to see in the 'burbs. Now, go grab your kids, your sketchbook, and some lunch and enjoy some spring nature study!

For more about the National Cherry Blossom Festival, go here. 
To learn about the trees planted there, go here.



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